Passage: Matthew 8:1-4 [NLT]
Mat 8:1 When Jesus came down from the hill, large crowds followed him. Mat 8:2 Then a man suffering from a dreaded skin disease came to him, knelt down before him, and said, “Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean.” Mat 8:3 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I do want to,” he answered. “Be clean!” At once the man was healed of his disease. Mat 8:4 Then Jesus said to him, “Listen! Don’t tell anyone, but go straight to the priest and let him examine you; then in order to prove to everyone that you are cured, offer the sacrifice that Moses ordered.” [GNB]
While there are so many wonderful things that can be said from a doctrinal understanding of this passage, like the idea that leprosy was considered a particular disease that was a direct curse from God or the result of a particular sin…
This is fitly recorded with the first of Christ’s miracles, 1. Because the leprosy was looked upon, among the Jews, as a particular mark of God’s displeasure: hence we find Miriam, Gehazi, and Uzziah, smitten with leprosy for some one particular sin; and therefore Christ, to show that he came to turn away the wrath of God, by taking away sin, began with the cure of a leper. 2. Because this disease, as it was supposed to come immediately from the hand of God, so also it was supposed to be removed immediately by his hand, and therefore it was not attempted to be cured by physicians, but was put under the inspection of the priests, the Lord’s ministers, who waited to see what God would do. [Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible]
…but instead I would like to explore the mindset of the man who came to Jesus to be made clean.
Imagine what it might be like to have a thing be a part of you, like a disease or a deformity, and to have it be viewed by those around you as a curse; a sign that you were not welcomed or loved by God. Empathetically we can enter into his mind and consider how he may have felt. Most likely he was raised by Jewish parents who would have taught him the ways of God. I think we can assume that he was searching for freedom from the sin that has “caused” his sickness. I would imagine he had made all of the required sacrifices (although the sacrificial system was so messed up at that point possibly he was too poor to afford them), and that he was probably left wondering “…why me God”?
And then he hears about this man Jesus….a great teacher, and people are following Him, and learning great truths about God from Him…and most of all; He is willing to be in the presence of sinners! So he follows the crowd to the top of the mount and while hiding behind a rock he listens to the words of Jesus. He is moved by them and feels the authority of them; and then he is brought to understand that this “man” Jesus is more than a man. He is the Messiah that he had been taught about for so long. He is the one that the Jewish nation had been waiting for. At this point, I can see the leper thinking that what he had hoped for for so long is finally within his reach. He thought this day would never come. He was a hopeless case. There was no hope…and then Jesus comes into his life. Hope springs up in his heart and as he continues to listen to the words of Jesus he becomes convinced of a simple truth. I need only be able to ask, with all of my heart, to be made clean by Jesus and he will be able to do it. There was no doubt in him. No question of maybe He can and maybe He can’t. He knew in his heart that he was dealing with the Eternal God with Us.
He boldly approached Jesus and said clearly and with conviction; ” “Sir, if you want to, you can make me clean.” And Jesus did something that he had not experienced in a very long time….he reached out and touched him. That alone must have been an overwhelming feeling…for he had probably not been touched by another human being in a very long time; a need we all have. Now Jesus says the words that his heart so deeply longs to hear; ” I do want to.” Oh how wonderful to hear those words! Not, “Let me consider it for a moment” or “Are you sure your heart is right with God” or “Not until you have proven yourself worthy”, but at the moment of his hearts deepest desire he hears only a confirmation of full “forgiveness”. He hears “Be clean!” and immediately the disease leaves him.
I try to imagine what it might have felt like to have the disease leave; the disease that had so consumed him for so long, affecting everything in his life; affecting everything he did everything he felt, everything he experienced in a dark way. Dragging him down. Covering his life force in soot and soil, dirt and grime; in a thick molasses of dreariness. Then in a moment, it is washed away. What a glorious feeling that must have been!
When I was a youth there was a man in our church who had built a sweat lodge or hut. It was really just a tent like structure built from branches and covered with tarps and foliage. He took a small group of young men with him, myself included, to this sweat hut and showed us how to use it. We built a campfire outside of the hut, put river rocks in the fire and sat waiting until they were nice and hot. Next we dragged the hot rocks into the hut and put them in the middle. Everyone sat around the rocks and then we poured water onto them; causing steam to fill the hut. I immediately started to sweat and I could feel the dirt and the grime maybe even some of the toxins in my skin start to come out. My skin became hot and I felt overwhelmingly hot, sticky, and dirty. Finally, when I could take it no longer, I ran out of the hut and one of my friends was standing there ready with a five gallon bucket of cold water. He slowly poured the cold water over my head. At first there was a moment of shock from the cold water; but then, there was this feeling of cleansing. It started at the top of my head and felt as though all the dirt which had been brought out and exposed was being washed away, slowly. It was so refreshing and revitalizing!
This experience is as close as I can come to how I imagine it may have felt to be cleansed of leprosy from Jesus. It must have been wonderful…
Dear reader, we can experience this in our own lives. Jesus is there waiting to forgive you of your sins..completely and wholly. He wants nothing more than to heal your weary heart. He can. Believe it and then go to Him and ask. You too can feel that cleansing!
Thank you so much Lord for forgiving our sins. Thank you seems so weak in comparison to what You have done for us, but it is what I feel fully in my heart. Now I ask that you work in my life so that I can show others the forgiveness that you have given me.
Be with others today Lord that need your comforting and healing hand. Please be with my family and friends and keep them safe. Amen.